Happy Constitution Week! Americans and others around the world may ask: How do I live for Christ and still respect the government leaders in charge?
The Bill of Rights is the first ten amendments of the constitution of the United States of America. These amendments were adopted at the same time the constitution was ratified (put into law).
Do you know the Bill of Rights? Here’s a 3-minute video that explains the Bill of Rights. See how many you can remember and explain.
Today I want to look again at the first amendment.
The First Amendment
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Some people think the first amendment guarantees us free speech. It does, but there is much more to it than that. The first amendment says that the government cannot make a law that makes us believe one thing or another.
It also cannot make a law that keeps us from following and living out our religious beliefs. In addition to that, we and everyone else in this country is allowed by law to say and to publish whatever we want to say. This means you have the right to speak up as much as the person who disagrees with you. Part of free speech is letting other people have a say. Part of it is also making sure you can have your say as well.
This amendment also guarantees that people can gather together for any reason, so long as they are peaceful and not hurting to themselves, other people, or damaging property.
We can also petition the government if we disagree with what it is doing. That means we can gather peacefully in what is called a rally, gathering in key places with signs to show the government we do not like what it is doing and want it to change. We can also write letters to and visit our government officials to tell them what we think the government should do. Another way this is done is by getting as many people as possible to sign a written petition. This document explains what the people who signed it want the government to change.
What does this have to do with Christians?
God tells us in His Word that those who trust Christ as their Lord and Savior (learn more here) should follow and obey Christ above everything and everyone else.
“Then he [Jesus] said to all of them, ‘Whoever wants to follow me must say no to themselves [what you want]. They must pick up their cross every day and follow me. Whoever wants to save their life will lose it. But whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it if someone gains the whole world but loses or gives up their very self? Suppose someone is ashamed of me and my words. The Son of Man will come in his glory and in the glory of the Father and the holy angels. Then he will be ashamed of that person.’”
Luke 9:23-26 (NIRV)
“I have told you these things, so that you can have peace because of me. In this world you will have trouble. But be encouraged! I have won the battle over the world.”
John 16:33 (NIRV)
As Christ-followers then, we should also obey our government, those who rule over us.
All of you must obey those who rule over you. There are no authorities except the ones God has chosen. Those who now rule have been chosen by God. So whoever opposes the authorities opposes leaders whom God has appointed. Those who do that will be judged. If you do what is right, you won’t need to be afraid of your rulers. But watch out if you do what is wrong! You don’t want to be afraid of those in authority, do you? Then do what is right, and you will be praised. The one in authority serves God for your good. But if you do wrong, watch out! Rulers don’t carry a sword for no reason at all. They serve God. And God is carrying out his anger through them. The ruler punishes anyone who does wrong. You must obey the authorities. Then you will not be punished. You must also obey them because you know it is right.
That’s also why you pay taxes. The authorities serve God. Ruling takes up all their time. Give to everyone what you owe them. Do you owe taxes? Then pay them. Do you owe anything else to the government? Then pay it. Do you owe respect? Then give it. Do you owe honor? Then show it.
Romans 13:1-7 (NIRV. Read the full passage here.)
What if a law is passed that goes against God’s Word? Remember, we are Christ-followers first. Then we are Americans. That means we obey God before we obey anyone else.
What does all this have to do with kids?
Kids have rights in this country too. God’s Word and the first amendment of the American Constitution agree that you have the right to decide what you believe. No laws, no teachers, no bosses, no leaders, no celebrities… no one can make you believe or not believe anything about God.
“But suppose you don’t want to serve him. Then choose for yourselves right now whom you will serve. You can choose the gods your people served east of the Euphrates River. Or you can serve the gods of the Amorites. After all, you are living in their land. But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.”
Joshua 24:15 (NIRV)
The first amendment also guarantees that you have the right to practice your religion, to live for Jesus every day. No one has the right to tell you you cannot.
- You have a right to pray in school. The minute of silence following the flag salute is a great time to pray.
- You have a right to bring your Bible to school. It is not a good idea to read it when you should be working on something else and it will not count for AR points, but you can still read it during your free time (like before school, waiting for the bus, or at recess).
- You have the right to tell people about Jesus and encourage others with Bible verses. Just remember that everyone may not agree with you. That’s ok. You are not trying to force anyone to believe like you do. You are simply sharing what you believe.
All of these things are guaranteed rights according to the American constitution.
Pray for Christ-follower around the world.
There are great blessings in being a Christ-follower, but it is not always easy. Not everyone has a law protecting their right to worship according to their beliefs. In several countries, it is illegal to be a Christian. Those who say Jesus is their Lord and Savior are put in prison or killed. Here in America, more recent law changes are causing some Christians to have to choose between living for Christ and obeying the government.
Take time today to ask God to be with Christ-followers in America and around the world.
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.”
Ephesians 6:18-20 (NIV)
This link is part of the Titus 2 Tuesday Linkup Party at cornerstonecomfessions.com.